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No-dig gardening & weed control

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default No-dig gardening & weed control

Post by freebird on 30th April 2017, 9:13 pm

I've known about this for ages, but it's never quite appealed. I thought maybe some sort of quick fix, make gardening easy type of approach. Never saw how it could be relevant for my couch/bindweed/bramble infested plots.

I've had some ghastly cold virus that's being very persistent, so spent a lot of time looking at gardening programmes on the iPlayer recently. One of them had Charles Dowding, who has been advocating his no-dig organic approach since the 1960s. If you'll pardon the pun, it must have sown a seed. I looked at his website yesterday evening, and there seemed to be a solution to all the issues I have encountered.

One major problem is that both couch and bindweed have rooted into the footings of the greenhouse base and a concrete path. I often spray, but I have to be on it constantly, and always end up not doing it for a while, and go back to square one. Additionally, it would creep out from under the path/greenhouse and get in amongst the crops, where I could do nothing about it until the crops were finished.

Today I have trenched all around these areas, and covered with thick black plastic, into the trenches and across the paths, then refilled with soil to hold the plastic in place. All around each veg plot, I have covered the path area with whatever I have that will exclude light - carpet, hardboard, more black plastic. Finally topped each plot with a thickish layer of composted stable manure.

I'm not expecting miracles, and I know I will have to be meticulous about weeding this year particularly - but for the first time in many, many years, I actually believe this may be achievable. The no-dig part is just a bonus, but the general principles Mr Dowding expounds seem sound.

Whilst I have always liked the idea of organic gardening, and done so in so far as practicable, it has always seemed (from my viewpoint) a bit unrealistic & idealistic. I'm not so sure now and absolutely fizzing with excitement about the possibility of having workable plots which I am not repeatedly trying to rescue from pernicious weeds.
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default Re: No-dig gardening & weed control

Post by Chilli-head on 30th April 2017, 10:18 pm

Was this last week's Gardener's World. I caught up with that on IPlayer last night.

I have in the past dismissed no dig as lazy gardening. The problem of perennial weeds is obviously a difficult one whatever. But, I have noticed that areas I have mulched deeply with well rotted manure over winter are much improved, in terms of soil texture, and water retention in this dry spell we are having, that areas lest as bare soil. In fact some areas at the lotty I have left bare (where leeks were overwintering) are dried out and almost unworkably hard, whereas an adjacent bed thas was manured digs easily, has a much better texture and is still damp. The manure does seem to have suppressed the annual weeds it covered, although a lot of Fat Hen came in with the manure - but at least it hoes off easily.

A barrier at the edges might keep the couch grass out. A solution to the mare's tails would be more that welcome Evil or Very Mad
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Post by freebird on 1st May 2017, 9:03 am

The barrier is to keep the couch out of the plot, but more importantly to exclude all light so it will eventually die.

We are fortunate not to have mares tail here, but it's only a little way up the road, so think it's probably just a matter of time.

His no-dig approach does involve digging in the first instance, to remove as much perennial weed as possible, but thereafter, mulching, hoeing & hand weeding. I think my biggest difficulty is sourcing enough mulching material.
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Post by Chilli-head on 1st May 2017, 10:17 am

Ah yes. And mulching material that isn't full of weed seed. I used horse manure once. It comes free because my business partner has horses, but I won't be doing that again. Lovely crop of stinging nettles !

I can buy, for £30 for a trailer load, well rotted, mixed manure. I've still imported a couple of weeds I could do without amongst that.
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Post by Dandelion on 1st May 2017, 9:54 pm

I've been trying out some of these ideas since last year and am gradually working my way round the garden under the trees and bushes with layers of cardboard and compost. I get excited when we get a delivery from Amazon, not because of the delivery but because there's a new box to use on the garden! I've been using home made compost, but also buying in sacks of soil improver from the tip - at £2 a sack it's not too expensive and seems to work OK. It seem to be working, though I did have to re-do one bit this spring, where the mulch hadn't covered the edge of a weedy bit properly, and the dandelions were still groing away strongly. They aren't now!

Charles Dowding's books are worth reading: 'Organic Gardening the no-dig way' is the basic one. I also read 'Gardening Myths' (when I was catching the bus to work last year and had a lot of time to read!) where he expoldes some of the myths surrounding gardening (not just about digging!)

I hope you see an improvement Freebird - you sound really encouraged

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by freebird on 2nd May 2017, 12:56 pm

Well! That didn't take long. The foxes have been in last night and dug holes in all my prepared plots, scattering mulch everywhere. Going to have a salvage operation later, and will have to net the plots
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Post by Chilli-head on 2nd May 2017, 1:03 pm

freebird wrote:Well! That didn't take long. The foxes have been in last night and dug holes in all my prepared plots

So much for no-dig gardening Laughing Sorry, had to laugh.

I have blackbirds making a terrible mess around my garden at the moment. I had some stuff in big pots - a maple and blueberries which I had mulched with bark; they insist on digging out the top 3 inches and throwing it all over the patio. And the mulch around the apple trees I'm getting tired of raking up. What is going on this year, they aren't usualy this messy !
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Post by Dandelion on 2nd May 2017, 7:24 pm

freebird wrote:Well! That didn't take long. The foxes have been in last night and dug holes in all my prepared plots, scattering mulch everywhere. Going to have a salvage operation later, and will have to net the plots

Crying or Very sad

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by FloBear on 3rd May 2017, 5:48 pm

Oh no, poor freebird. Another job to do that wasn't intended Crying or Very sad
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Post by Ploshkin on 5th May 2017, 11:06 pm

I suppose I've been no dig gardening for the last 15 years since I introduced my raised beds.  It's more due to idleness than anything else and the fact that I have access to an infinite quantity of manure.
However at the end of last season I realised that my crops had become decidedly lacklustre (I think the polytunnel had made me more aware) so I've been paying a bit more attention to the soil for this year.  Last season I combined harvesting my potatoes with incorporating plenty of muck and have added another layer on those beds in readiness for planting this year.  I hope I will notice an improvement
I think perhaps I haven't been sufficiently generous with the muck in the past.  I will do the same with the potato bed again this year.
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default Re: No-dig gardening & weed control

Post by freebird on 29th June 2017, 9:03 am

An interim report on the no-dig gardening. I think I have been lucky as the long spell of dry weather has stopped too many weeds germinating. However, on my mulched plots, any weed seen has been removed immediately - sounds like hard work, but actually been so simple as they are easy to see against the mulch, and it has rarely required a concentrated effort. Just a glance as I go past on my way to the greenhouse.

Additionally, the mulch has been superb for helping keep the moisture in the soil. After many weeks without rain I started to think I really must water the veg plots. Scraping away the mulch, I found the soil quite moist underneath, so didn't bother watering.

So far, it has all been really encouraging with no apparent downside.
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Post by FloBear on 29th June 2017, 9:10 am

That sounds like a real success story-so-far, freebird.
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